More US-China talks, Europe turns down Iran, intelligent wasps

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

US-China trade talks resume under the cloud of more tariffs. Chinese vice premier Liu He is traveling to Washington for negotiations with US officials, a few scant hours before new US tariffs against Chinese goods are scheduled to take effect. Beijing has vowed to retaliate, causing turmoil in global markets.

EU leaders discuss the future of Europe. Ahead of a major summit in Sibiu, Romania, eight member countries are calling for the bloc to spend 25% of its entire budget to tackle climate change, and to have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest.

A peek behind the fashion business curtain. Analysts expect Tapestry, maker of Coach and Kate Spade handbags, to post a modest rise in third quarter revenues, aided by demand in China, but a steep decline in profits.

Uber prices its IPO. The ride-share giant is expected to price its shares at or below the midpoint of its target range, set at $44 to $50 per share in an updated filing last month. Drivers at Uber and Lyft began striking earlier this week ahead of the highly-anticipated public offering to demand higher pay and job security.

While you were sleeping

Europe said no to Iran’s ultimatum. France, Germany, and the UK expressed regret over Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from the nuclear accord, but urged Iran to continue upholding it. Yesterday, Tehran announced it would partially withdraw unless Europe shield its banking and oil sectors from US sanctions.

South Africa began counting its ballots. Results from elections for a new parliament and nine provincial legislatures are trickling in and show the ruling African National Congress party, which swept to power 25 years ago after apartheid ended, ahead. A final tally is expected by Saturday.

Juan Guaidó’s deputy was detained by intelligence services. Venezuela’s opposition leader said that the government had “kidnapped” Edgar Zambrano, vice president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, the first arrest of a lawmaker after a failed attempt to oust president Nicolás Maduro last week.

An up and down earnings day. Japanese tech giant SoftBank saw its profits soar (paywall), with its Saudi-backed investor fund, which holds stakes in Uber and WeWork, a major source of growth. Meanwhile, higher oil prices and increased competition led to a 69% tumble in annual profits for Emirates.

Denver approved tripping. Voters narrowly passed a referendum to become the first US city to decriminalize psilocybin, the active substance in magic mushrooms.


We talk to Fraser Howie, co-author of a seminal book on the creation of China’s state-owned banking behemoths, who believes that Chinese fintech upstarts like Ant Financial are still beholden to the brittle foundation of their old-economy predecessors. Over at Private Key, we look at a novel and controversial solution to bitcoin heists: asking bitcoin miners to roll back the theft.

Quartz Obsession

Porta-potties: A true game of thrones. If you’re accustomed to indoor plumbing, using a porta-potty might not be high on your list of favorite activities. But the industry isn’t in the dumps—across the US portable toilets are a $2 billion business. As a result, the industry is ripe with competition, with some companies resorting to dirty tactics to stay ahead. Read more in today’s Quartz Obsession.

Matters of debate

Join the conversation with the new Quartz app!

Your mission statement isn’t fooling anyone. Companies shouldn’t waste time and resources pretending they have a greater purpose.

Facebook just talked privacy. Google actually built it.

Selfies don’t kill people. Blame selfie deaths on stupid behavior, not social media.

Surprising discoveries

The US is at war with Mexican tomatoes. Consumers will pay the price for tariffs on one of their favorite fruits.

Wasps are terrifyingly logical. They’re the first invertebrates to show evidence of transitive inference, a skill humans long thought was theirs alone.

Australia’s new $50 banknotes have a typo.  The yellow note, which has been printed 46 million times, misspells “responsibility.”

Time travel is going nowhere fast. A virtual model concluded that it’s just far too difficult to do more than send a single particle just a split second back in time (paywall).

A man crossed the Atlantic in a barrel. The 71-year-old Frenchman’s journey took four months within the self-built orange capsule.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, barrel boats, and spell-checked banknotes to Join the next chapter of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was written by Adam Rasmi and edited by Jackie Bischof.